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What two Los Angeles moms want to see in their kids' schools

Lourdes Vazquez discusses the state of her children’s school.

Last month the Education Matters team spoke to Lourdes Vazquez and Esperanza Mejia, who are friends living in Pico-Union. We asked them what they want to see in their children's schools.

Lourdes Vazquez's son, Kevin Castro, loves science. But at his school, Franklin High in Highland Park, the hands-on part often happens online. Which is to say that more than once, Kevin's science class has offered him labs on the Internet, instead of in real life.

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For example, in a lab lesson about mosquitoes and how they grow, the students did the experiment online instead of with the living, buzzing insects. "It's not as fun as if we did have the materials and [were] working with each other, with partners to get the result," Kevin said in an interview in early August.

Vazquez wants more materials. She wants her science-fueled son to be able to experience science in a tangible way, she said.

Franklin High School does have a budget for science supplies, Principal Regina Marquez-Martinez said through a district spokeswoman via email. The school's science teachers use real labs, Marquez-Martinez said, in addition to the virtual labs, which are intended to be supplemental.

The lab isn't Kevin's only issue. Last school year, he said, the air conditioning didn't work; it would blow cold air in the winter and hot air in the summer. Franklin High School students said they walked out of overheated classes in September 2014.

LAUSD spokeswoman Shannon Haber said on Aug. 18 that the air conditioning was working at Franklin for the new school year. The district installed an industrial chiller unit in the school on Aug. 18, the first day of the new school year, and has not received any new complaints, said Mark Cho, deputy director for the district's maintenance and operations unit.

The problems with air conditioning are not unique to Franklin; the district received hundreds of complaints about air conditioning problems during last week's heat wave, and has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to updating and revamping old AC systems in schools.

Meanwhile, Esperanza Mejia doesn't want her two kids, who each attend a different school within the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in downtown Los Angeles, to have to worry about broken computers or trying to learn in a class with more than 40 students—both issues she said her daughter has faced at the Los Angeles School of Global Studies.

"There isn't enough support for the school," Mejia said. "We need more help for the school." She wants her children to finish high school and go to college, to have careers.

The classes do not go higher than 37 students, said the school's principal, Christian Quintero. He said every class has 40 to 45 computers, but it is true that some don't work, probably about two or three in each room.

"We have computers here that started with our school opening about nine years ago," Quintero said. "We're coming from six years of budget cuts from the district."

The School of Global Studies is a low-income, Title I school that received funding last year to offer after-school tutoring, Quintero said. As of the end of August, he didn't know yet whether the school would receive similar funding this year.

"I couldn't study, I didn't have the opportunity," Mejia said of her own education. "I want them to study and to have the support, so they don't stop studying."

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Reach Sonali Kohli on Twitter @sonali_kohli or by email at sonali.kohli@latimes.com.

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